When Suzy and Wilma Peterson walk through the door, the two ladies will most likely have smiles plastered to their faces. These rarely fade as they navigate their way through the floor plan of your home or business with a vacuum, assorted colored rags, spray bottles filled with soapy liquid, a feather duster, or – Suzy’s personal favorite – a buffer.
Suzy and Wilma are two transgender entrepreneurs who have swept their cleaning company, S&W Peterson LLC, into a number of residential homes alongside a few businesses in Denver. It’s something neither thought they would be doing but both found a love for.
“We take great pride in the work we do,” Suzy said. “I want to walk out of a building knowing that we took care of the client. We want the homes we visit to be livable and the businesses to be workable when we walk out. Unfortunately, we are in the minority in that regard.”
In order to accomplish this goal, the ladies must have a keen eye for detail. At first there was a learning curve, but they’ve trained their eyes to walk into a building and immediately start assessing what needs to be done — honing in on the obvious obstacles and those that lurk beneath the surface.
Before S&W Peterson LLC, Suzy was an electrical engineer and would travel for weeks out of state, while Wilma stayed in Denver to work. Although they were both satisfied, the erratic scheduling and distance put a strain on their relationship. The couple was pushed to the breaking point when Suzy left the state on a 12-week project in California.
Suzy didn’t last the twelve weeks and came back early to be with Wilma. After a few discussions and some soul searching, S&W Peterson LLC was born.
“When Suzy came back, she just told me, ‘I don’t want to be away from you anymore,’” Wilma said. “It made me feel so good and wanted for just being me. It’s a feeling I’d waited a long time for.”
The two worked in various fields both before and after their transitions. While neither of them faced blatant discrimination once they came out, transitioning in the workplace can be very challenging. The trans community is often discriminated against or targeted both during and after transitioning, but these two have shown that the broom is mightier than the sword.
According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, the trans community experiences unemployment at double the rate of the general population, while 26 percent have lost a job because they are transgender.
Explicit nondiscrimination laws and workplace protections are important because they protect the transgender community from these injustices when they happen and even before they occur.
In May 2007, Governor Bill Ritter signed Senate Bill 25 — the Employment Nondiscrimination Act — that added protection for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Coloradans into Colorado’s employment anti-discrimination laws.
This expanded law defines sexual orientation as heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, or transgender status. Under Colorado law, it is now unlawful to consider sexual orientation or gender identity when making employment-related decisions, including hiring, firing, or inquiries about an employee’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
This law applies to all employers, employment agencies, labor organizations, on-the-job training, and vocational training programs and schools, regardless of size.
“I worked at a Fortune 500 company for 25 years and came out as trans during that time. It was a boys’ world type of company and didn’t feel comfortable afterwards,” Wilma said. “The trouble and discomfort trans people face when it comes to the workforce was in play when we decided to go down this path.”
The couple has opened their business to other transgender employees who may have been facing employment discrimination or are looking for a safe and welcoming workplace. As the business continues to grow, the need for more employees will follow. As this happens, Suzy and Wilma will employ those who need a helping hand and show them the ups and downs of functioning in a professional setting, from proper attire to punctuality.
In a little more than a year, S&W Peterson LLC, has been rapidly growing. With it, a newfound love for janitorial service has sprouted in both Suzy and Wilma. You can connect with the team at SWPeterson.com.
“We’ll come take care of you — no matter who you are,” Wilma said.