2023 BCEL Conference – Future Proofing Through Eliminating Gender Bias

Future Proofing Through Eliminating Gender Bias

Session Description

Women have been seeking power equity for decades. During this session, Freeborn will establish unequivocally that there is a continued corporate problem in inequality, even if or when we don’t always see it. In her thoughtful, empathetic delivery style, she will show attendees how women are consciously or unconsciously blocked from advancing to key decision-making roles, and more importantly, how to change this corporate culture. The discussion will outline the barriers, misperceptions, and attitudes and will provide a barrage of tactics and strategies designed to move the needle. Participants will leave this session with not only a clear idea of what they individually can do to improve the advancement of women in leadership in their organizations, but what credit unions can do, at a corporate level. Teresa will also speak about her career journey through the Canadian and US credit unions systems, strategic decisions she’s made along the way and challenges that she’s overcome as a leader, credit union executive, and co-founder.


Teresa Freeborn

Author, CFO – Smash + Tess

Executive, Credit union leader, long-time advocate for women, and now author and clothing company executive, Teresa Freeborn is an outspoken and sought-after speaker and media commentator who delivers important truths with warmth, compassion and humor.

A champion for the World Council of Credit Unions, she was an inaugural member in their Global Women’s Leadership Network and is currently serving as its chair.

Most recently, Teresa served as President of Kinecta Federal Credit Union, the 35th largest credit union in the nation with approximately $7 billion in assets and 300,000 members. She assumed that role after orchestrating the merger of Kinecta with Xceed Financial Credit Union which she had served as President and Chief Executive since 2006. Having accomplished the goals she set for herself as Kinecta’s president, Teresa decided to step down in early 2022 to write a book that draws insights from her career and aims a penetrating and revelatory light on how and why men are holding women back from reaching corporate C-suites and Board rooms; importantly, she coaches men on what they need to do to become effective allies for women in the workplace. She has also taken on a more active role as Chief Financial Officer in helping to grow Smash+Tess, a clothing company she Chairs and co-founded in 2014 with daughter and Smash+Tess CEO Ashley Freeborn.

This new, diverse and intriguing portfolio is classic Teresa Freeborn who has, throughout her four-decade career, advocated for numerous causes about which she is passionate and helped shape the credit union industry in key areas, including diversity and inclusion, as well as technological innovation and genuine collaboration among credit unions.

In support of those goals, Teresa served on many financial industry boards, including CUES, California Credit Union League, and CUNA – chairing many of them. Teresa continues to be an active participant in Children’s Miracle Network executive committee, and a member of the Board of the Cardio Vascular Research Foundation.

Teresa has received countless awards and honors for her multi-decade achievements and contributions.

A native of British Columbia, and hometown Tsawwassen, she was an executive of Central One Credit Union before she was recruited to California in 2000. She was prominent in Vancouver’s business community, a director of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestraand was also very active with Vancouver Children’s Hospital and Variety Club.

Freeborn holds an MBA from Simon Fraser University and  resides in Rancho Mirage, California.