FigTree Header 10.14


Search The Fig Tree's stories of people who make a difference:

Living in two worlds, Sikh woman values and promotes diversity in work force

Subarna Floura Nagra promotes intercultural understanding

From growing up in two worlds of faiths and cultures, Sikh-Indian and Catholic-American, Subarna Floura Nagra learns from and blends both cultures in her life.

Insights from both help her not only guide corporations and nonprofits to discover the value of a diverse work force but also educate people in the community about the Sikh community here.

She helps organizations build intercultural relations as part of leadership development, team building and strategic planning.

“We live in exciting times when incredible things are happening because of diversity,” she said.

Two years ago, she started a consulting business, d&f consulting, to do professional training to help organizations and businesses develop a diverse workforce in terms of education, age, race, ethnicity and more.

She and her business partner Tara Dowd, an Alaskan Eskimo, are both qualified administrators of the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI), a means to help people understand where they are on a continuum so they can develop cultural competency.

Subarna has lived in Spokane 27 of her 32 years.

Her parents came to the United States from the Punjab region of North India.  Her father, a surgeon there, came in the late 1970s to study in California and did a residency in psychiatry in Connecticut.  In Spokane, he is a psychiatrist at Eastern State Hospital.  Her mother worked in early childhood education.  They were among the early Sikh families coming in the 1990s.

Subarna earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology and women’s studies in 2007 and a master’s certificate in health services administration in 2011 at Eastern Washington University.  She is starting a master’s degree in business administration. 

She has also helped her husband, Dave, with his commercial property development business in rebranding, restructuring and outreach.

While Sikh all her life, she attended All Saints and Gonzaga Prep Catholic schools.

“Going to Catholic schools, I learned about my faith.  I value and respect other religions,” she said.  “I translate Catholic doctrine to equivalents in Sikh faith.  My parents taught me to be tolerant and to learn about others.”

Gonzaga Prep encouraged her to volunteer in the community.  It is also part of her faith as a Sikh. 

Subarna serves on the YWCA Board, Leadership Spokane, the League of Education Voters, the Mayor’s Advisory Council on Multicultural Affairs and the Spokane County United Way Emerging Leaders Society.

She was manager of development at United Way, guiding philanthropic giving of Spokane businesses and organizations.  She also established the Emerging Leaders Society, developing relationships with community leaders, corporations and nonprofits. 

Because she understands the meaning and value of both the Western and Eastern worlds, Subarna has insights to help people understand diversity. 

The IDI assessment, which is used around the world and is in 13 languages, has an online multiple-choice questionnaire.  The score helps people interpret where they are on a continuum. 

Subarna is tested each year to maintain her license to use the IDI.  As of two years ago, there were more than 50 accredited administrators in Spokane County.

Results of the assessment give a baseline for initiating conversations on race and diversity.

“I am intrigued by diversity in business,” Subarna said. “As conversations take place and dialogues flow, individuals and teams try to understand issues and are given tools to construct meaningful conversations and progression. 

“It’s data-driven and measurable.  We do follow-ups and develop relationships,” she said.

Subarna finds the IDI process helps establish comfort with topics that previously made people uncomfortable.

To create buy-in for the process, she begins with board leaders and executives, so decision makers know what it’s like before initiating the program on a wider basis.

Subarna cultivates healthy, innovative environments, strengthening teams through strategic planning with measurable results.

On the personal level, she is comfortable with people asking questions about who she is, where she’s from and what she does.

She shared some background on the Sikhs in Spokane.

Her family and others started the Sikh gurudawara in a vacant retail space.  As more Sikhs came, they started the Spokane Sikh Temple in the present building at 1420 N. Barker.  It now serves a community of about 300 people.  Many are professionals—doctors, engineers, professors and businessmen.

“We call the temple the gurudwara among ourselves, but use “temple” in the name, because it’s easy to pronounce.  Gurudwara means house of worship,” she said.

“Like anyone, I’m on a personal journey in faith, growing through faith, spirituality and service, and letting it mold my outlook on life.  Sikhism is a way of life,” said Subarna, who teaches her one-year-old and seven-year-old children, Sikh principles of honesty, peace and compassion.

“I live the ideas to the best of my ability,” she said. 

An example of her blending the cultures is her choice to wear American style clothing, while some women wear traditional Indian clothing.  Many Sikh are vegetarian, but she is not.

“The Indian culture is family oriented,” Subarna said, noting that growing up she often told her friends that having her grandmother live with her family was normal.  She told them why she ate certain foods and described celebrations.  She also explained why men and women are separate in Sikh worship.

“Part of eastern culture is a commitment for people and families to take care of each other, to be part of each other’s good days and bad days,” she said.  “We are taught to work hard, value education, contribute to society, and show respect and compassion to those who are less fortunate. Like American culture, Sikh women have equal rights.” 

Sikhism came to the attention of many people with a recent break-in at the temple.

“Community support has been tremendous.  We are forever grateful and will build on those relationships,” she said, glad that members who found the intruder served him tea and showed compassion.

“We could have been angry,” she said, grateful for the wisdom of those members, “but we met him with respect and humanity.  It is an opportunity to educate the community and turn a negative experience into a positive one that embraces Sikh values.”

In her profession, as a volunteer and in the gurudwara, Subarna encourages people in the business, education and faith communities to intersect.

“I want to do what I can to make Spokane the best place to live, a place where people learn and thrive,” Subarna said. 

For information, call 979-7046, email or visit

Copyright © May 2016 - The Fig Tree