Former Sara Lee CEO and Advocate for Working Mothers, Brenda Barnes, Dies at 63
Former Sara Lee CEO Brenda Barnes, who became one of the highest-ranking women in corporate America, passed away Tuesday, her family confirmed. The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that Barnes, who lived in Naperville, Ill., suffered a stroke over the weekend. She was 63 years old.
Barnes sparked a very public debate about work/life balance when, in 1997, she left her highly publicized job as the head of North American beverage operations for PepsiCo Inc. in order to spend more time with her family — specifically her three children, who were ages 7, 8 and 10. At the time, Barnes told the "Today Show" she wasn't trying to been seen as an example for women in the workplace, but rather just a snapshot of what her personal priorities were at the time.
While taking some time off, Barnes still remained active on many corporate boards, including Sears and Avon Products. Barnes joined Sara Lee in 2004, and was quickly promoted to CEO. Unfortunately in 2010, she suffered a stroke and was unable to return to the brand.
Barnes is survived by her three children and will forever be remembered as a talented CEO who put her family first.