A number of large companies have pledged to funnel $1.5 billion worth of contracts to women-owned firms operating outside the U.S. between now and 2018. In addition to the benefits the money can provide for the firms, the initiative will also allow valuable data to be collected. "This isn't a grant. It's a business endeavor from these companies," said Elizabeth Vazquez, CEO and co-founder of women-focused nonprofit WEConnect.

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