Rachel Weiss is a counsellor and entrepreneur, who founded the Menopause Cafe charity www.menopausecafe.net in 2017 to raise awareness of menopause. She supports volunteers to host pop-up events worldwide, where people meet, in person or virtually, to drink tea, eat cake and talk about menopause. The charity also holds an annual Menopause Festival, #FlushFest , to educate, engage and entertain on the theme of menopause. In her day job, she is a counsellor and coach at Rowan Consultancy in Perth, Scotland www.rowan-consultancy.co.uk
What were your initial years of growing up like? Tell us about your life before starting your corporate journey/venture/initiative.
I grew up in London, UK, in a multicultural environment. I was a quiet child, enjoying reading and studying. My parents gave us a loving start, encouraging me and my sister to be inquisitive. I studied mathematics at Oxford, where I discovered my inner extrovert and enjoyed friendships, fun and founding a student society to volunteer at the local homeless hostels. I spent a year in Berlin, volunteering with Lebanese refugees and learning to drink very strong, very sweet coffee, and then studied a Masters in Artificial Intelligence at Edinburgh University – a beautiful city! I stayed in Scotland, first as a volunteer with an AIDS charity and then as a math and computing teacher and now as the founder and owner of Rowan Consultancy.
Every industry that is now a large-scale, top-notch business once started as a small idea in the minds of entrepreneurs. What was that idea or motivation that made you start your business /initiative? What motivated you within to say YES, go for it!”
One night, I watched a TV documentary called “The Menopause and Me”, and was amazed to discover that menopause isn’t just about hot flushes, and to realise how little it was spoken about. There was still shame or taboo around this ubiquitous topic. I saw a need for places where people knew they would be welcome to talk and ask about menopause, without embarrassing anyone. I had the facilitation skills from my work as a trainer and had hosted Death Cafes www.deathcafe.com before. They kindly let us borrow their model, and Menopause Cafes were launched! We hosted the first one in Perth, Scotland, where I lived and about 25 people joined in. “Now I know I’m not alone” they said afterwards and “Now I know I’m not going mad”. People were so grateful to have a space to talk about what was happening to them or their loved ones, and asked when we were holding the next one. That’s what keeps me going – the need for spaces to talk about menopause and the difference our events make to people’s lives.
Tell us something about your initiative or current role. What is it about, and what impact are you trying to make?
Menopause Café charity aims to increase awareness of the impact that menopause has on those experiencing it, their colleagues and families, so that they can make conscious choices about this third stage of life. The Menopause Café charity does this through two types of activity:
- Menopause Cafés, which are pop-up events where people, old and young, male and female, meet to drink tea, eat cake and talk menopause, either online or in person. These discussion groups are hosted by volunteers, worldwide, with no speakers and no experts, just people with a common interest in menopause sharing experiences, questions, tips and stories.
- #FlushFest, an annual Menopause Festival, providing information about menopause and celebrating it through the creative arts. #FlushFest aims to to educate, engage and entertain on the theme of menopause. It is a hybrid event accessible in person in Edinburgh and also online worldwide.
Your journey and your vision are very inspiring, but are there any achievements or accomplishments you would like to mention?
I was particularly pleased when the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, asked how she could support our work and joined us at #FlushFest22 to talk menopause with our patron, Kirsty Wark. You can watch their conversation at https://www.youtube.com/c/menopausecafe
Would you like to share with our young budding women entrepreneurs the change you would like to see in the world if given an opportunity?
I would like everyone to feel free to talk about menstruation and menopause, when they want to do so. Not to be ashamed of these natural processes. To be able to have support at work and at home. Our bodies can produce new people – that’s an amazing superpower to be celebrated, not hidden!
Women are a growing force in the workplaces worldwide, standing shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts. There are cracks in glass ceilings everywhere, with many women breaking through to carve out a space right at the top of the pyramid. What are your thoughts about women leadership today?
We need to get past aiming for equality with men and now aim to celebrate our diversity and differences, be proud to be women instead of pretending to be men. That means abandoning the “leader-as-hero” mindset and embracing the “leader-as-human” mindset, being confident enough to share our vulnerabilities, our emotions, our values and practising self-care.
What would you want to say to our young women leaders/audience reading this?
Get friends and mentors who believe in you, who will support and challenge you;
Go for therapy and counselling;
Let go of always needing to people-please, but be sensitive to others’ needs without being dictated by them,;
Have hobbies outside work,;
Nurture your mental and physical health;
Be it success or failure, misery or happiness – this too shall pass;
It’s OK to make mistakes.