Deneen Howell is a partner at Williams & Connolly LLP. She is Co-Chair of both Williams & Connolly’s Transactions and Business Counseling practice group as well as its Employment Counseling and Litigation practice group, and also serves as Chair of the firm’s Budget Committee.
A transactional lawyer, Deneen is a highly skilled negotiator with broad experience helping memoirists, non-fiction authors, thriller writers and illustrated children’s book authors secure book deals; advising senior executives, fiduciary and advisory board members of public and privately-held companies in matters related to executive compensation and corporate governance; assisting former government officials, public speakers, broadcasters and journalists in their professional, academic, media and publishing pursuits; and counseling privately held businesses and non-profit organizations in employment, corporate governance and publishing-related matters.
Recognized by Chambers USA a member of Williams & Connolly’s “renowned” media and entertainment practice, Deneen also has been honored as one of Savoy magazine’s Most Influential Black Lawyers and frequently has been selected as one of the top 500 lawyers overall(Lawdragon magazine).
Deneen was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and grew up in Sudbury, Massachusetts. She received her J.D. from Stanford Law School, where she also served as President of the Stanford Law Review, and her B.A. from Yale University. Deneen joined Williams & Connolly in 1998 and has been a partner since 2006. She has served as a member of the Board of Governors of the Folger Shakespeare Library (2010-20), and recently was elected to the Board of Directors of the White House Historical Association.
Dr. Scharff is the CEO and Cofounder of The Fuller Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to groundbreaking reporting on women worldwide that raises awareness, exposes injustice and spurs accountability.
Under her leadership, The Fuller Project has evolved from a grassroots start-up to the global newsroom dedicated to reporting on women and publishing with leading outlets. Since its cofounding in 2015 from Turkey, The Fuller Project newsroom has won various accolades including the Military Reporters & Editors Award, the One World Media Award, the Amnesty International Media Award, the Milwaukee Press Club Silver Award; reporting has also been shortlisted for the Biedler Prize for Cancer Journalism, One World Media Award, South Asia Journalism Association Daniel Pearl Award, and the National Society of Newspaper Columnists Award.
At The Fuller Project, Xanthe heads an organization that includes several dozen editors, reporters, global contributors, and senior business leaders. The team’s reporting has spurred the introduction of new legislation to protect women and girls in the U.S., the hiring of hundreds of policewomen in India, the banning of virginity testing in state hospitals in The Philippines, and much more. She has raised nearly $25 million for The Fuller Project and other nonprofits that raise the voices of women and girls, and she has led The Fuller Project through year-on growth, more than tripling organizational resources between 2019 and 2020. In 2021, Xanthe was awarded the Helen Gurley Brown Genius Grant for her visionary leadership in bringing to light groundbreaking stories affecting women.
Xanthe is an award-winning nonprofit founder and journalist whose reporting has been featured in Newsweek, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, and beyond. During the coronavirus pandemic, she was among the first to write about the disproportionate impact of the economic crisis on women in a major U.S. news outlet (TIME). Xanthe then called for a federal release of data to better inform policies in The Boston Globe. She and her team reported based on exclusive statistics received from 17 state agencies to show women as the majority of unemployment seekers in all states. Over a dozen journalism outlets including The New York Times sourced The Fuller Project’s data reporting, which led the national news cycle three weeks ahead of federal data releases.
In 2019, Xanthe was named among the top 40 under 40 by the Leadership Center for Excellence for outstanding public service. Xanthe is the Founder and Board Chair Emeritus of Advancing Girls’ Education in Africa, a thriving nonprofit in East Africa which has served 3,000 girls with secondary school opportunities. The UN gave AGE Africa a good practice award, and Michelle Obama endorsed the organization’s work. CBS’s The Early Show, Voice of America, The Christian Science Monitor, and several African media outlets have covered their work. The nonprofit named the Xanthe Scharff Workplace Experience project in her honor.
Formerly, Xanthe was the Associate Director at the Center for Universal Education at Brookings where she led research and programming on girls’ education. There, she published extensively and edited a volume on girls’ education, built a partnership with Brookings India, and facilitated a network of 60 global foundations. She was an Education Pioneers Fellow and a Peace Scholar at the United States Institute of Peace during her investigation into government and donor failures to support the survivors of a devastating 20-year war in Northern Uganda.
The Fletcher School awarded Xanthe her doctorate in International Relations for research on post-conflict education, during which she was named Minear Fellow, Earhart Fellow, Henry Leir Fellow, and was an Active Citizenship Fellow. She was also a D.C. Education Fellow and worked at the District of Columbia Public Schools. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and she has worked with organizations including The World Bank, United Nations, Arabella Advisors, CARE, and Save the Children. Xanthe graduated with honors from New York University and completed executive education courses at Harvard Business School and the Kennedy School at Harvard.
Xanthe serves on the Board of Advisors of The War Horse, an award-winning nonprofit newsroom that supports military spouses and educates the public on military service, having herself been a military spouse during numerous 9/11 deployments. Having lived in Argentina and Peru, Xanthe speaks Spanish. She has also lived and worked in Turkey, Uganda, Sudan, and Malawi and now leads The Fuller Project’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., where she lives with her two children. If not working, you can find her running, reading, or heading to the woods.
Recent Reporting by Xanthe: