Upon graduating Harvard, Kanoko Oishi joined McKinsey consulting company and worked there for 12 years. Her role focused on how companies can make themselves more customer-oriented. Incredibly dedicated to her work, and highly intelligent, she quickly rose to the role of partner.
As the 2nd female partner ever, she had the freedom to work on projects that she cared about the most. As such, Kanoko focused on making a positive impact in the world of healthcare. Specifically, she wanted to help hospitals become more patient-oriented.
The nature of McKinsey’s business is to conduct 3-month consulting projects, where consultants provide strategic advice to make the business more effective in some way. However, the suggested methods are not necessarily implemented, as that is entirely up to the company. Plus, hospitals in Japan have traditionally not been patient-centered. As such, Kanoko wanted a more direct impact on the ground level.
ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF MEDIVA AND PLATANUS MEDICAL CORP.
Thus, she founded both Mediva, Inc. and Platanus Medical Corp. in 2000 with renowned doctors. The company’s mission is to realize innovative, patient-centered medicine and care. Now with over 120 employees, Mediva is a thriving company with hospice care centers, home care, women’s clinics including a mobile facility, and family doctor practices.
As one of the first companies to offer electronic medical records for patients, Mediva began innovating right from the start. This allowed both patients and hospitals to access vital health information in a secure manner, and effectively inform doctors about the patient’s existing health conditions in an emergency situation. As such, this was an extremely important step in the right direction.
Typically women in Japan avoid checking for ovarian and breast cancer, as it’s extremely uncomfortable. For Medivas' women’s clinics, Kanoko ensures that patients not only receive top-notch medical services, but she also ensures that patients feel immediately comfortable the minute they walk in through the doors with strategic, interior design. Through intuition and her extensive knowledge about Japan’s healthcare situation, Kanoko created one of the most patient-friendly, and comforting clinics in all of Japan.
Another extremely effective service that began in 2006 is Mediva’s home care practice. Since Japan has one of the world’s highest percentages of elderly folks with an increasingly aging population, this practice exponentially grew. Mediva doctors visit elderly patients in the comfort of their own homes, so they do not have to make a potentially dangerous trip to a local clinic. This allows homebound patients to receive excellent health care. As such, it is one of the most valuable services that elderly patients can possible receive!
Plus, Mediva offers positive, aging rehabilitation — another untapped area in Japan. One of the most successful practices, Kanoko has witnessed a number of patients transform from using a walker to walking on their own within 3 to 6 months. And it’s truly inspirational for Kanoko, who sees these patients frequently. The gratitude and overwhelming appreciation these patients have for Kanoko and fellow Mediva employees is profound, as they achieve what they thought was originally impossible!
KANOKO'S PERSONAL ACCOMPLISHMENTS
In society, too, she has earned accolades. For her innovative healthcare work, Kanoko earned the 2014 Business Stateswoman of the Year from Harvard Business School’s Club of Japan. And for spending over an hour speaking with me, I too, give her my highest personal commendation.
Not only did she teach me about the current healthcare situation in Japan, but she also taught me what it takes to run a successful business in Japan as a female entrepreneur.
3 KEY TAKEAWAYS
1) First, it takes a bit more ingenuity than one might think. For example, although she is divorced and has a boyfriend, she still chooses to wear a wedding ring. The reason… is to avoid any potentially awkward exchanges with male business partners or colleagues. Makes sense, right? Women in America do the same thing. It’s smart. It’s ingenious. And it’s what is needed!
2) Second, her main challenge had nothing to do with being a woman. Instead, it was the fact that she was not an MD. So Kanoko took action. She collaborated with the top physicians and recruited the best MDs and nurses to her practice. Plus, she worked hard to make a positive difference in the lives of her patients.
In the typically male-dominated world of Japanese medicine, Kanoko also concentrated on empowering female employees at Mediva to ensure that they spoke up when needed, and were appreciated by their male colleagues.
3) Third, women who want to have children in Japan and manage a career, also have to create ingenious solutions for doing both. For example, Kanoko learned how to make efficient, yet healthy bento lunches for her son, waking up extra early every morning to properly feed her entire family before moving on to her own business.
Typically, Japanese mothers do 100% of the household work, and men are often considered another child. But it’s not just the household work. The realm of responsibilities for women includes: extremely tedious preparations for middle school, high school, and college entrance exams, the household budgeting and finances, and the care of elderly parents for both herself and her husband.
So how can women manage all of these household responsibilities and work? Well, it’s not easy.
ADVICE ON MANAGING A CAREER & FAMILY
Kanoko recommends that women consider running their own businesses, as it permits them the absolute freedom to come and go as pleased, manage their own time, and make ends meet. She even informed me that it’s easier for her to manage her schedule now, than when she worked at McKinsey.
When her only son was between the ages of 1 and 6, Kanoko moved physically closer to a top-notch daycare. Plus, she paid over 100,000 yen per month or $1,000 to have her son attend. And for her son’s sake, she chose a great elementary school close to her business. That way, her son could come to her clinic after his primary school ended at 2 pm. And by running a healthcare clinic, Kanoko had the freedom to bring her son to work. There, her son was well taken care of by the wonderful women who worked for her.
ADVICE FOR JAPAN
But 10 years into the future, Kanoko and I spoke about how it hopefully won’t be as difficult for women to work and manage a family. Instead, Japan needs more high-quality daycares with fantastic staff. Culturally, it has to become more nurturing of women who want to do both. As the population continues to increase, fewer people get married, and the birth rate steadily declines, the working population is shrinking quickly. So society will need to encourage and empower more women to do both — manage a career and have a family, with the husband’s household and financial support.
FINAL PIECE OF ADVICE FOR WOMEN
And in the meantime, Kanoko’s advice for women is to not worry about making everything perfect. Instead, ‘good enough’ should be the standard.
And she advises women to plan their own lives and do everything in one’s power to have a flexible schedule.