The latest data on the diversity of the Redmond software giant’s workforce, released Thursday, showed a second consecutive annual drop in the proportion of women employed by the company.

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At Microsoft, about one of every four employees is female.

The latest data on the diversity of the Redmond software giant’s workforce, released Thursday, showed a second consecutive annual drop in the proportion of women employed by the company.

Microsoft’s ranks were 25.8 percent female at the end of September, a decline of one percentage point from a year earlier. Two years ago, Microsoft was 29 percent female.

Microsoft attributes the decline to layoffs in units Microsoft bought from Nokia in 2014 and spent much of the past three years dismantling. Nokia’s workforce, and particularly its manufacturing centers, employed a larger proportion of women than Microsoft units.

The report is the latest evidence of Microsoft’s struggles to broaden the makeup of its workforce, which doesn’t look much like society. Microsoft and other technology firms tend to be male-dominated and employ small percentages of African Americans and Latinos.

Those disparities are greater in technology-focused jobs and leadership positions; just three of Microsoft’s 12 senior leaders are female.

The debate about inclusion in technology companies has taken on a civil-rights dimension as the industry, an important source of high-paying jobs in a relatively slow-growing U.S. economy, gains clout.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson is on a multiyear advocacy campaign, pushing Microsoft and its peers in Silicon Valley to look harder for talented employees and disclose more about the composition of their workforce.

“This is a field that really gives you the power to change the world and the power to address societal challenges,” said Ed Lazowska, a longtime University of Washington computer-science professor. “These are great jobs, and everybody should have them be available to them. In many ways, this involves overcoming what had been kind of a boys-club environment for many years.”

Comparing workforce statistics across companies can be misleading, given the differences in job categories, regions and other factors, Lazowska said.

But Microsoft’s proportion of female employees would seem to put the company at the back of the pack among technology giants.

The workforces of Facebook, Google and Apple are all more than 30 percent female, according to the most recent data from each company.

The decline in the portion of women at Microsoft was disappointing, said Gwen Houston, the company’s director of diversity and inclusion. Still, she said there was a “glimmer of optimism” beyond the headline statistics, particularly in new hires.

Women represented 27.7 percent of employees hired in the last year, a higher percentage than the company’s workforce.

Among U.S. employees, the representation of black and Latino employees at Microsoft each ticked higher by tenths of a percentage point, to 3.7 percent and 5.5 percent, respectively.

Those figures were higher for employees hired in the last year, Houston said.

“It’s about retention,” she said. “We can do all this great hiring, but how do we hold onto that great talent?”

Employees of Asian descent made up 30.5 percent of Microsoft’s workforce, from 29.3 percent a year earlier. That figure is lifted by guest workers, primarily from India and China, hired under the H1-B visa program for highly skilled workers.

Houston said Microsoft’s efforts to broaden its workforce include career-development programs focused on getting women and underrepresented groups into leadership roles, and a new effort that ties a portion of senior leaders’ compensation to diversity gains in their teams.

Regardless of the company’s own programs, Microsoft is likely to report a gain in female representation next year.

LinkedIn, the social-networking firm Microsoft is acquiring in a $26.2 billion deal, is 42 percent female. Much of LinkedIn’s workforce focuses on the recruiting industry, sales and marketing, and advertising functions, roles that tend to have a greater portion of women than does software development.