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One side effect of the crisis? Employees of color risk losing their networks, Accenture CEO Julie Sweet warns

December 1, 2020, 8:00 PM UTC

The disproportionate impact of the coronavirus pandemic on communities of color and caregivers has been well-documented. But there’s another way people of color are being further disadvantaged by the crisis, this time at work: Their networks are falling behind.

Accenture CEO Julie Sweet joined Fortune Brainstorm Tech on Tuesday, where she sounded the alarm. “Those networks, smaller and more fragile before COVID, have been really challenged in a world where things are remote and it’s harder to connect,” she told Fortune‘s Ellen McGirt.

The racial gap in access to the kinds of personal and professional networks that help career advancement is something Accenture noted before the pandemic, Sweet said. Accenture has worked to help employees of color at its company and beyond maximize their own networks and access new ones, but that progress has been “challenged” by the pandemic.

Sweet, who is No. 1 on Fortune‘s 2020 Most Powerful Women list, advises other companies to ask themselves the question: “Have you focused on the impact of COVID on networks and advancement for your diverse employees?”

The trend is just one way the impact of the crisis is playing out differently for different kinds of employees at work. This perspective is also one that businesses should keep in mind when reopening their offices, for example. “How do you bring people back and not disproportionately affect those who are not able to go back?” Sweet asked, citing employees with young children.