NAPERVILLE, Ill. — Brenda Barnes, whose decision to leave the top job at Pepsi-Cola set off a national debate about mothers in the workforce, has died at age 63.

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Erin Barnes says her mother died in Naperville, Illinois, on Jan. 17, from complications of a stroke.

In 1997, the elder Barnes left her job as CEO of Pepsi-Cola North America to spend full time raising her children. She was both heralded and criticized for rejecting the role of the superwoman who could effortlessly balance family and work.

As her children grew up and readied for college, Barnes returned to the corporate world, taking an executive position at Sara Lee Corp., the Downers Grove, Illinois-based food maker, in 2004. She became Sara Lee CEO in 2005.

She stepped down after suffering a stroke in 2010.