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Xanthe Scharff, PhD

[ZAN-thee SHARRF]

Dr. Scharff is the Cofounder and CEO of The Fuller Project, the global newsroom dedicated to groundbreaking reporting that catalyzes positive change for women. 

The founder of two acclaimed nonprofit organizations and a gender expert, Scharff launched The Fuller Project from Turkey while reporting in Istanbul and on the Syrian border. She has built the project to be the go-to source for exclusive, in-depth global reporting about women that would otherwise be untold. The journalism is relied on by decision-makers and published in renowned outlets, such as The New York Times and The Washington Post. 

Scharff has led The Fuller Project through steady growth and oversees a staff that includes several dozen editors, reporters, contributors and senior business leaders. Under her leadership, The Fuller Project newsroom and communications team have won 24 industry awards and citations. The newsroom’s reporting has spurred federal funding for maternal care in the United States, the hiring of hundreds of policewomen in India, and the banning of virginity testing in state hospitals in the Philippines. 

Together with Foreign Policy, Scharff launched the global monthly column on women and global affairs, The Full Story, covering women amid violence, authoritarianism and extremism. For Foreign Affairs, she reported on issues facing Syrian refugee students, and on Turkish policies driven by religion that impacted children and women’s choices. 

During the coronavirus pandemic Scharff called for a federal release of data to better inform policies in The Boston Globe. Her reporting in TIME, among the first to call attention to the disproportionate impact of COVID on women in early March 2020, received a citation from the Society for Professional Journalists. She and her colleagues discovered that women were disproportionately claiming unemployment insurance immediately after COVID shutdowns. Federal data releases would not show the trend until weeks later. Their exclusive data findings were cited by a dozen news outlets including The New York Times just as policymakers were legislating trillions of dollars of emergency aid. Based on a partnership Scharff built with the largest media company in East Africa, Scharff commissioned evaluative research to advance the field of collaborative journalism. 

In 2005, Scharff wrote an article for The Christian Science Monitor about a family living in Malawi. When readers learned that the daughter had dropped out of school, they asked how to help. Scharff worked with Malawian leaders to found AGE Africa, which has served 3,000 girls. Harvard’s Africa Policy Journal published the research that Scharff conducted to underpin scholarship provision. CBS, Voice of America, The Christian Science Monitor and MSNBC have featured the scholars in their reporting. The Malawi Government honored Scharff with a certificate of appreciation for her work. 

Scharff led research on girls’ education at the Center for Universal Education where she edited and wrote extensively, led fellowship programs, hosted policy meetings with heads of state and ministries and facilitated a network of 60 global foundations. She edited a volume on girls’ education which was the basis for large-scale policy change. While a scholar at the United States Institute of Peace, she investigated donor failures in Uganda after a devastating 20-year war and published findings to inform local government responses and international aid organizations. 

Scharff began her career working for The World Bank in Peru, later returning to investigate whistleblower claims of government and corporate collusion, exposing illegal environmental abuses in Indigenous communities in a leading Peruvian legal journal. After working for the UN in Sudan and observing military posts in South Sudan, she published research in Ploughshares Journal that probed the efficacy of international enforcement of child and adult disarmament.

A lifetime member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Scharff is a Gender Advisor to The War Horse and is on the Board of Advisors of the Henry Leir Institute for Human Security at The Fletcher School. She is a member of the Meridian Center Rising Leadership Council and has worked with organizations including the Arabella Advisors, CARE, and Save the Children and was an Education Pioneers Fellow. She is a frequent moderator, keynote speaker and guest lecturer about journalism, women, global affairs and leadership. 

The Fletcher School awarded Scharff a doctorate in International Relations for research on post-conflict education, during which time she was named Minear Fellow, Earhart Fellow, Henry Leir Fellow, and was a Tisch Active Citizenship Fellow. Scharff graduated with honors from New York University and completed executive education courses at Harvard Business School and the Kennedy School at Harvard. She attended the Sulzberger program for news leaders at Columbia Journalism School. 

Scharff was named Distinguished Alumna of Tufts University in 2020 and of the National Cathedral School in 2017. In 2021, she was awarded the Helen Gurley Brown Genius Grant for her visionary leadership on climate journalism and was named among Top 40 under 40 by the Leadership Center for Excellence. She is Board Chair Emeritus of AGE Africa, where an apprenticeship program was named in her honor.

Avid dancer, runner, hockey/soccer mom, Scharff lives in hometown Washington D.C. with her two kids.

In the News:

Foreign Policy live: Scharff on women’s voices missing from news.

Madam Policy: Scharff & The Fuller Project.

PBS Newshour: Scharff on investigation into sexual abuse online during COVID.

Foreign Policy: Ukrainian Women on the Front Lines but Not in the Headlines

Impact Video:

The Fuller Project 2022

Three decades after the FMLA became law, caregiving responsibilities still knock women out of the workforce

Thirty years ago, on Feb. 5, 1993, President Clinton signed into law the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which allows employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave from work when they…

How Women Changed the World This Year

From Colombia to Iran, feminism is an increasingly unstoppable force.

What it takes to tell Afghan women’s stories

Founder of Rukhshana Media and one of TIME’s 2020 Women of the Year, Zahra Joya on what it takes to report in defiance of the Taliban.
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