At the height of her career, Brenda Barnes famously quit her big job at Pepsi to be with her kids. Years later, a massive stroke nearly killed her--and her daughter returned the favor.
Ever since I interviewed former Sara Lee (HSH) CEO Brenda Barnes and her daughter, Erin, at this year's Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit, people have been urging me to publish the video of our on-stage conversation.
I'm happy to share this exclusive interview here, during the holidays, because Brenda and Erin offer wise advice about where we super-strivers should place our priorities.
Brenda Barnes was the most powerful woman in the consumer packaged-goods industry in the '90s when she quit her senior post at PepsiCo (PEP) to go home to her family. She famously sparked the having-it-all debate--and went on to raise three great kids. Then she became a role model for dropping out and coming back successfully. She did it by joining a slew of prominent boards--Avon (AVP), the New York Times (NYT), Sears (SHLD), Starwood Hotels (HOT), and Lucasfilm, now part of Walt Disney (DIS). Stacking up that board experience, Barnes attracted the favor of recruiters and snagged the top job at Sara Lee, which she led for five years until 2010.
This was when a massive stroke ended Barnes' corporate career. And it could have ended her life. But something amazing happened. Barnes' daughter Erin, who had been nine years old when her mom quit the Pepsi job for her, graduated from Notre Dame the very week her mother had her stroke. Erin decided to quit the job she had lined up at Campbell Soup (CPB) so she could help her mom recover. Barnes came back to life beyond anyone's expectations. Together, Brenda and Erin redefined power and success.
You can read my exclusive story, The Rehabilitation of Brenda Barnes. And over this holiday season, cheers to our families and everyone who is there for us when we really need them.
The real power of Fortune Most Powerful Women is the community's reach and influence around the world.
And there's no better testament to this than the Mentor Walks that took place this month in 18 countries, from China to Egypt to Poland to Haiti. These walks, pairing successful career women with younger women and girls, were organized and hosted by alumnae of the Fortune - U.S. State Department Global Women Leaders MOREPatricia Sellers - Nov 26, 2012 11:36 AM ET
At the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit last week, I was standing in the green room with Karen Hughes, once a top adviser to President George W. Bush and now vice-chair at PR giant Burson-Marsteller. "So many of the lessons that the business leaders are talking about here are applicable to Washington," Hughes said to me, reciting quotes from the on-stage interviews with CEOs such as IBM's Ginny Rometty and MOREPatricia Sellers - Oct 8, 2012 1:06 PM ET
Looking back on 15 Most Powerful Women lists and the shifting definition of "power."
FORTUNE -- Here is what I learned from being present at the creation of Fortune Most Powerful Women in 1998 and helping to produce the annual MPW list 15 times.
Power is what you make it.
And Power, in the minds of the Fortune MPW, has changed greatly.
Let me explain, by taking you back to MPW's beginnings. MPW started, MOREPatricia Sellers - Sep 20, 2012 6:15 AM ET
FORTUNE -- One of this year's Fortune Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs multitasks in Hollywood. She's a movie star.
Another 2012 MPW Entrepreneur just sold her company to Google (GOOG) for a reported $350 million.
Another winner, nominated by Facebook (FB) COO Sheryl Sandberg, sold her company to LinkedIn (LNKD) for $119 million this year.
These three startup queens are Jessica Alba of The Honest Co., Victoria Ransom of Wildfire Interactive, and Rashmi Sinha MOREPatricia Sellers - Aug 31, 2012 9:00 AM ET
Meg Whitman's first report card as CEO of Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) comes this afternoon when the company announces fourth-quarter earnings.
In the 60 days since she took the job, Whitman has settled on a strategy (keep HP in the PC business), worked to raise employee morale (terrible after three CEO ousters), and lifted the stock (up 12% since her appointment). But the former eBay (EBAY) chief, who lost her race for governor MOREPatricia Sellers - Nov 21, 2011 2:09 PM ET
The $25 million two-year deal that Chelsea Handler just chalked with the E! network says something about the enterprising queen of late-night TV talk. She sure knows how to negotiate.
"I do behave badly and I get paid well for it," Handler told Piers Morgan on CNN (TWX) last evening, adding, "It's a really good time to be me."
Last month, when I interviewed Handler on stage at the Fortune Most Powerful MOREPatricia Sellers - Nov 18, 2011 1:29 PM ET
Somaly Mam is a hero. Nick Kristof said so in his op-ed column in the New York Times this past weekend. Kristof raided a brothel in Northern Cambodia with this amazing woman who has become the guiding light in fighting forced prostitution around the world.
After escaping a similar brothel, where she was raped and tortured on a daily basis for years, Somaly Mam found her purpose. She devoted her life MOREPatricia Sellers - Nov 15, 2011 10:00 AM ET
Evelyn Lauder, who died of complications from non-genetic ovarian cancer on Saturday, had a swarm of close friends throughout her life. Yet many close friends who attended her funeral today did not have a clue that she would die so soon.
Classic Evelyn. "It was never about her. It was always about you," Liz Robbins, a prominent Washington lobbyist, told me this morning over breakfast before she headed to the invitation-only MOREPatricia Sellers - Nov 14, 2011 1:22 PM ET
The best CEOs, I've learned in my 27 years at Fortune, come to the job with a deep-seated passion and a very personal view of what they want to accomplish.
PepsiCo's Indra Nooyi may be struggling lately. Yes, investors are impatient with her healthy-products strategy, the stock is down, and the Pepsi boss dropped to No. 2 behind Kraft Foods (KFT) CEO Irene Rosenfeld on the 2011 Most Powerful Women list.
But MOREPatricia Sellers - Nov 10, 2011 11:14 AM ET
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