Working on a major case as a labor and employment lawyer, Adelmise Warner ’01 once walked into a room full of attorneys to take a deposition-and found she was the only woman and person of color there. One man looked around and asked, “Where’s the person taking the deposition?”
When Warner raised her hand, “you could see the shock on their faces,” she recalled. “It was an eye-opener.”
Now, Warner tries to make sure others don’t feel that way. As chief counsel at Pandora, the music-streaming service, she strives to bring diversity to the infamously homogeneous tech industry.
Since joining the company two years ago, Warner has worked to address Pandora’s diversity gap: Minorities make up only about 35 percent of the workforce. The goal is to attain a 45 percent minority workforce by 2020.
Warner is familiar with overcoming long odds. She immigrated to San Diego from Haiti at 16 and entered her sophomore year of high school without speaking any English. To supplement her ESL classes, she picked up the language by devouring Beatles songs.
Even though her guidance counselor said she’d never make it at UC Berkeley, Warner enrolled in the university just three years after immigrating. An internship at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sparked her interest in employment law. She enrolled at UC Hastings, where she took an employment law seminar, worked at employment law practices in the summers, and participated in Moot Court. “That gave me the confidence and practical skills to be a lawyer and litigator,” she said.
After graduating in 2001, Warner worked as a labor and employment attorney for two law firms and spent six years as deputy city attorney in San Francisco. In 2013, she joined Electronic Arts, the video game publisher, as senior counsel. “I always wanted to be in-house so I could shape policies and build infrastructure,” she said.
Today, in addition to continuing her work at Pandora, Warner hopes to convey the importance of diversity to additional companies by joining corporate boards. “That’s an area where we sadly lack a lot of minorities and women,” she said. “It would mean a lot to be able to diversify corporate governance.”