Index Corp.: YOSHIMI OGAWA/Tokyo

YOSHIMI OGAWA/Tokyo

As a female executive in the men's club of Japanese business, Yoshimi Ogawa has to watch her step. "It's difficult to do business when so many meetings are conducted in cabaret bars," she says, referring to the Japanese propensity for after-hours schmoozing and boozing.

Fortunately for her company, Tokyo-based Index Corp., she has not completely abandoned her female intuition. Five years ago, Index was struggling; the website-design firm's founders were dipping into their personal savings just to make the payroll. Index thought salvation might be found in a different line of work--collaborating with cellular giant NTT DoCoMo, which was developing Internet-enabled...

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